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U adjunct professor nominated to lead US Geological Survey

David Applegate has served as an instructor in geology capstone courses.

The White House has nominated David Applegate, adjunct professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Utah, to serve as director of the U.S. Geological Survey. If confirmed by the United States Senate, Applegate would serve as the USGS’ 18th Director.

Currently the Associate Director for Natural Resources Exercising the Delegated Authorities of the Director, Applegate is also the Associate Director for Natural Hazards. He joined the USGS in 2004.

According to his USGS bio, Applegate “oversees the geologic hazard and coastal and marine programs of the USGS and coordinates the hazard response and planning activities for the bureau.” The USGS natural hazards mission includes seismic networks like the University of Utah Seismograph Stations, which is funded by the USGS.

David Dinter, professor of geology and geophysics, first brought Applegate to the U during the early 2000s as an additional instructor for the field camp capstone experience for geology students.

Applegate holds degrees in geology from Yale University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Geological Society of America.

Established in 1879, the USGS is the scientific bureau of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The USGS is a close partner with the University of Utah. In 2018, then-director James Reilly signed a five-year memorandum of understanding with Ruth Watkins, then president of the University, allowing for sharing of resources and close collaboration between the U and the USGS. With offices in Salt Lake City, USGS scientists are frequent collaborators with U faculty.

Former USGS directors with Utah ties include:

  • Clarence King (director 1879-1881), explorer and namesake of Kings Peak, Utah’s tallest mountain.
  • John Wesley Powell (1881-1894), explorer of the Colorado and Green Rivers.
  • George Otis Smith (1907-1930), geologist who studied Utah’s Tintic mining district.
  • Thomas Brennan Nolan (1956-1965), geologist who studied the Great Salt Lake Desert and the Basin and Range Province.
  • Vincent Ellis McKelvey (1971-1978), whose doctoral thesis included a study of a shale formation in northern Utah.

Read the U.S. Department of the Interior announcement here.